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Book Review: The Last Correspondent

Title: The Last Correspondent
Author: Soraya M. Lane
Genre: Historical Fiction, World War II,

What It’s About: In Illinois, 1943, Ella Franks has received a letter from her employer, a newspaper, that they have discovered that she is a woman writing under a male pseudonym, and while they were willing to publish her last piece, they have ended their correspondence to them. Defeated and unsure of what to do as this has been Ella’s life-long dream to become a writer, she returns home. Her mom ultimately convinces her to go meet up with her militia women–a group of women in Illinois that were learning how to handle guns and went on patrols around the area. Ella agrees on the condition that she will want to write about them for a story and a piece.

At the same time, in Sicily, renowned photographer Danni Bradford and her best friend, Andrew, a journalist, are embedded with the American Military fighting there. She is taking photos, avoiding being barely shot at and killed, but she is determined to document all the moments in this War and make her name as a war correspondent. In a moment of rest, Major Cameron, who is leading the men in battle, tells her that women do not belong on the battlefield. He is furious that she’s this close to the war, and has her called into Lieutenant’s office where she is told that she is no longer allowed to be on the front lines, and must go cover the hospitals. Deflated but unwilling to give up on covering war, Danni does go and photograph the aftermath in the hospitals, with the promise that she will get closer to the war front again.

In England, Chloe, Andrew’s sister, is a former Vogue model who makes the decision to return to Paris to reunite with her lover, Gabriel. She leaves Andrew a letter, and then heads out with a suitcase to Paris, determined to be with Gabriel, even as the war rages across France.

Few weeks later, Ella receives a call to the Post Office from a different News Agency telling her that they loved her stories on women issues, and they would like to send her to London, England to cover women issues in Wartime. After a talk with her parents, she heads out to England, where she stays at hotel full of correspondents. There she spends a few months getting to know other correspondents, and strikes up a friendship with Michael, a well known and respected correspondent. She also gets to know Danni briefly as they meet in a hotel bar where the rest of the correspondents usually hang out. Andrew is furious and worried because he found out that his sister left England, and asks Danni to promise him that if anything happens to him in the War, she will do everything in her power to find Chloe.

Arriving in Paris to surprise Gabriel, Chloe is rejected and surprised that Gabriel has become distant. He thinks that she should not have risked her life pretending to be part of a traveling group of women to get past the Nazis to see him. They spend a few short days in Paris, before a woman visits Gabriel to warn him that the Nazis are looking for him. Shortly after her visit, Gabriel and Chloe leave Paris and she witnesses the woman who warned them get shot, giving them the chance to escape freely.

There are rumors back in London, amongst the correspondents, that there is a major military action plan to take place on the beaches of Normandy. But the problem is that neither Ella nor Danni are allowed near the action, and cannot see it because they are women. In an exchange, Danni asks Ella if she will let Michael win their contest, or will she find a way to get to the D-Day action. Ella decides she’ll find a way through somehow, and begins to make calls.

In the meantime, Chloe is with Gabriel at a chateau that was owned by Gabriel’s family, nearby Normandy. She has figured out that Gabriel is part of the resistance against the Nazi occupiers, and she becomes a cook and house cleaner. She also realizes that she is pregnant, and has to tell Gabriel before she starts showing. She does tell him, and he realizes that he has to get her out in order to save the life of their child, but he does not know how to do that. Instead, she continues to do her work to the resistance effort and live in the chateau for a bit longer.

With the D-Day action confirmed, but no passes for Ella to get close to the action, she decides to risk it for the biscuit and dresses as a nurse. Then she gets on a ship specifically a floating hospital, where she hides under the lifeboats. Danni and Andrew get on the same ship by telling the nurses that they are here to do an interview with the nurses and doctors as they are about to go to war. Instead, the two of them hide in a bathroom together, and wait until they are out to sea before coming out and catching fresh air. There, they realize that someone is hiding in the boats, and find out that it is Ella. Andrew tells Danni that they should take Ella under their wings, and Danni ultimately agrees so long as Ella keeps up.

They arrive at Normandy and experience the first assault. Danni is taking pictures, and both Ella and Andrew are jotting down notes. When it’s time to go to land, they help the nurses with the stretchers, and make their way through the water. Suddenly a blast propels Danni forward in the water, and with ringing in her ears, she gets helped up by Ella. Turns out that Andrew had stepped on a mine that killed him instantly. In shock, the women keep trudging, staying close to the front lines to take pictures and write the stories, only setting up with the hospital camp when they can. It isn’t long before Danni and Ella are discovered by none other than Major Cameron and told they must stay in camp, near the hospital. But now, Danni is on a mission–she must find Chloe and deliver Andrew’s last wishes. She tries to ask for a car, but the military says no, so she steals it. Together with Ella, they drive all the way towards where Andrew claimed that Gabriel had a chateau.

Only for the car to break down in the middle of an eerie forest. They are stopped by men, and Danni quickly realizes that they are probably part of the French Resistance. She asks for Chloe and Gabriel–going as far as showing the man a picture of Chloe. He asks them to allow him to put a bag over their head, and leads them to the Chateau, where he takes off the bag, and Danni quickly recognizes Chloe. Gabriel tells Chloe that they are looking for her, and the three ladies get to know each other better. Danni leaves Ella to tell Chloe the truth about Andrew’s death, as she cannot face it herself.

Upon hearing that Danni and Ella came to get Chloe out, Gabriel decides that Chloe needs to leave with them, even though she is heavily pregnant. He and his resistance fix up the car, and they walk the ladies back to it. Suddenly, bullets start flying as the Nazis have come upon them, and Danni and Chloe get shot. Gabriel yells out as he watches Chloe walk away, so that the Nazis can start to shoot him. He sacrifices himself so that Chloe and his child would get a chance at life. Danni decides that Ella needs to save Chloe instead of her, as getting Danni into a car would waste precious time that could kill Chloe. She sacrifices herself and resigns herself to her death in the ditch in a forest by a road as Ella races away with a severely bleeding Chloe in the car.

Arriving at the camp, Ella gets the nurses and doctors to help her get Chloe out, and they do their best to save her life as well as the life of the child-without any promises. In the meantime, Major Cameron had heard frantic Ella screaming about Danni and Chloe, so he asks her where Danni is. He goes white when he hears what has happened to Danni, and he goes off with a contingent of his men to find her no matter what. He does, and he holds her in his arms at the back of the car on the way back to camp.

When they return, Danni gets rushed to operation, and both Ella and Cameron sit worrying about the people they care about. Luckily both Chloe and Danni pull through, including the baby. Cameron has a conversation with Danni about what she put him through, and Ella finds out that one of the injured journalists is Michael. She rushes to see him at the hospital, and tells him that she will gladly work with him to make his dreams happen, though he is mad because he can no longer write. He throws a tantrum and kicks her out, but she reminds him that she will be here for him when he wants her.

A few months later, Danni, Chloe and Ella meet up in a bar in London. Chloe is there with baby Andrew, whom she named after her brother, and Michael is with Ella, having agreed to her proposal of helping him write. He had asked her for forgiveness and told her that he loved her. At the bar, Cameron proposes to Danni and they also quickly get married on the spot. It’s only then that Danni realizes she doesn’t even know Cameron’s name–Robert. Ella and Danni are being reprimanded for sneaking into the hospital ship and onto land in the midst of the war when they were not supposed to be there, and so have to go home to the US to face the music.

My Thoughts: Part of this book was supposed to be a romance, but unfortunately it’s not that evident or strong in the book. I really loved Ella and Danni–their spunk to do whatever they wanted and to follow their passions in their careers regardless of what was forbidden to them at the time. I loved the different perspectives and the strength of both Ella and Danni, but I didn’t really like Chloe’s part of the story. It did give a different perspective during the wartime, but she was very naive and I don’t feel like she was as strong a character in the overall story. In fact, I remember more of Ella’s and Danni’s story than Chloe’s.

Overall, it was a fair book, not my favorite about World War II, but I certainly loved the two main characters.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Last Correspondent”

      1. 🤣 I mean the 3.5 would be closer up towards a 4, and away from the 3, if it were one of those ratings where they don’t let you choose half-stars. Mostly the whole Chloe aspect of the book for me was something that just brought it down, and I wasn’t a fan of it–but the other two would have easily made this a 5 if they were alone.

        Liked by 1 person

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